Reviewed by Karen Poppy
Dug-Up Gun Museum
(American Poets Continuum Series, 197)
by Matt Donovan
November 2022, ISBN: 978-1-950774-75-3, Paperback, 96 pages
In his poetry collection, Dug-Up Gun Museum (BOA Editions, Ltd. 2022), Matt Donovan takes us on a national tour of the violent reality with which every American has to reckon—a violent reality that has not been reconciled through any reasonable course of action:
if it doesn’t ever go off. It’s wrong to make promises
you don’t keep. Even if America buried
many of its promises long ago, when it comes to the gun
A wide-open Door To Nowhere, like the one at the Winchester Mystery House, “ which all of us needed to see,” we gape into the void and cannot make our way through the darkness—meaningless darkness, into which we are led by way of labyrinth corridors (“It’s easy to get lost in here. Folks go missing all the time.), grief, and guilt. (“Portrait of America as a Friday the 13th Flashlight Tour of the Winchester Mystery House”)
Our collective heart shatters like broken mirrors in these corridors, like shards of too quickly extinguished light. Autopsy photos of children who died at Sandy Hook, a teenager “shot unloading a drum kit outside a church.” (“The Wrong Question More Than Once”) Except, our collective heart does not include “Second Amendment fans…They’d say ‘Yeah, that’s what guns do.’” Id.
Donovan’s poems, sensitive and unflinchingly brave, pull us through this grisly reality, showing our country’s stubborn and sick fascination with guns, and downright reverence. We are expected to bury our human dead, and accept that guns will be dug-up. Not as relics, but as emblems of American freedom. New guns will be manufactured and purchased every day. Made to do what guns do.
About the reviewer: Karen Poppy’s debut full-length poetry collection, Diving at the Lip of the Water, is forthcoming in 2023 with Beltway Editions. Her chapbooks Crack Open / Emergency (2020) and Our Own Beautiful Brutality (2021) are both published by Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook, Every Possible Thing, is published by Homestead Lighthouse Press (2020). An attorney licensed in California and Texas, Karen Poppy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.